Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh to give back to farmers more than 2,000 acres notified for acquisition for Kakinada SEZ

Published : February 24, 2021 15:51 IST

Agriculture Minister K. Kannababu submitting his committee’s report on the issues relating to land acquisition for the Kakinada SEZ to Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy before the Cabinet meeting on February 23. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In a major victory for farmers from Kakinada, in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district, the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy Cabinet on February 23 committed itself to returning to agitating farmers the 2,180 acres of land that had been notified for acquisition under the Kakinada Special Economic Zone (KSEZ). The government’s decision means that six villages — Srirampuram, Bandipeta, Mummidivaripodu, Pativaripalem, Ravivaripodu and Ramaraghavapuram — will not need to be vacated as had been proposed by previous governments.

The return of these lands marks the culmination of a struggle that has gone on for more than a decade, with numerous Kakinada farmers taking legal recourse and refusing to give up their land.

Announcing the decision, Minister for Information and Public Relations Perni Venkataramaiah (Nani) said that all cases against farmers registered during their agitation would be withdrawn. Added the Minister: “Further, all the burial grounds taken away from these villages will be returned. Moreover, the restrictions imposed on land transactions in these villages under 22A of the Registration Act will be lifted.”

The Cabinet also decided to provide an extra Rs.5 lakh per acre for the 657 acres of land notified for the KSEZ in addition to the already announced compensation by the government and the GMR Group. The Cabinet also made it clear that none of the industrial units coming up in the KSEZ would be allowed to release effluents outside the zone and they would have to be treated at a separate place.

The KSEZ acquisition process dates back to the late 1990s when Kakinada Seaports Limited, which was managing the Kakinada Deep Water Port, proposed a multipurpose special economic zone abutting the seaport as part of its expansion plans. The then N. Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government cleared the proposal. It was subsequently sanctioned by the Government of India (GoI). However, the process of land acquisition was taken up by the subsequent Congress government in tandem with the GoI’s decision. In total, more than 10,000 acres of land was notified for the SEZ in the mandals of U Kothapalli and Thondangi in East Godavari district. While some lands were acquired by the State government and provided to the Kakinada Seaports Limited, others were acquired directly by the company. In 2011, the GMR Group took over the KSEZ.

A year later, Chandrababu Naidu supported the agitating farmers, promising to protect their lands. His volte face after he formed the government in 2014, being prepared to offer a compensation hike for the land, was rejected outright by the farmers. Before the 2019 Assembly election, the agitating farmers even ploughed the notified land as part of their protest against acquisition.

The issue was taken up by Jagan Mohan Reddy during his Praja Sankalpa Yatra prior to the 2019 election. He announced to the agitating farmers at Pithapuram that once his government came to power, he would ensure that the lands were returned to them and the villages exempted from the purview of the KSEZ. A committee under the chairmanship of Agriculture Minister K. Kannababu was set up in January and its recommendations formed the basis for the Cabinet decision.

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